With voice being still being a nascent platform, we started by considering the existing landscape to understand what, if anything, fellow charities are doing as well as looking further afield to get a feel for the general characteristics of successful voice products. This research was used as stimuli for a workshop which brought together the different disciplines across the WaterAid and HMSD teams.
Our conversations around the research revealed that building an educational product would allow us to create something that can:
- Be fit for purpose on voice considering that games/trivia/storytelling is a very popular category in the voice space
- Engage the next generation of changemakers around important world issues
- Augment WaterAid’s educational programme for schools
The concept that we finally decided to take forward was ‘WaterAid Voices’, which was inspired by the penpal tradition of yesteryear. Every day, Alexa, as the user’s new penpal (or should we say voicepal?), delivers a letter from Madagascar, which is one of the many Southern African countries that WaterAid operates in. Each and every letter is unique and proceeds to tell the story of life in Madagascar, covering topics such as Malagasy food, music and wildlife through a conversation with the user.
Whilst the skill was designed with a sense of humour in mind and is a form of entertainment, it also serves a serious purpose in educating the public about the consequences of having a lack of clean water and toilets in the village of Tsarafangitra. We endeavoured to do this in a light touch way without being too overbearing.
We know animal sounds are wildly successful on Alexa
Whilst designing the skill, we drew on a few key pieces of learning from our research to add further creative polish. In our travels, we found that there exist skills dedicated purely to playing animal sounds, which have proven to be hugely successful. In light of this, we weaved in opportunities to play sound clips that would bring Malagasy life to well. We also leveraged Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) to give Alexa more character (such as the ability to whisper or make exclamations) and to further enrich the experience.
Being a skill that is meant to mimic a back and forth conversation, we wanted to avoid any awkward misunderstandings with Alexa. For example, we accounted for user spontaneity by including fun reprompt messages in response to cheeky comebacks to questions. Interlude music was also used in certain instances to allow users time to think or to confer with others about the answers to quiz questions.
WaterAid Voices provides ample opportunity for the public to learn about the issues that WaterAid is tackling through a novel, engaging medium Image credit: vivint